March 10, 2015

Asking someone's age is considered taboo in polite society, and the Social Security Administration appears to have been taking lessons from Miss Manners.

An audit conducted recently by the SSA's inspector general revealed that the agency "did not have controls in place to annotate death information," putting the government at risk for fraud and waste.

CNS News reports that social security numbers of some 6.5 million people born in 1901 and before have been used to open fraudulent bank accounts, while thousands of others have been used by undocumented immigrants to apply for jobs. One person, for example, opened a bank account with a SSN of a person born in 1869.

According to the Washington Times, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), leaders of the Senate committee to oversee the SSA, issued a joint statement in reaction to the report. "It's incredible that the Social Security Administration in 2015 does not have the technical sophistication to ensure that people they know to be deceased are actually noted as dead," Johnson said.

Carper added that these types of "avoidable problems waste millions of taxpayers' dollars annually... expose our citizens to identify theft, [and] also undermine confidence in our government."

The auditors suggested that the SSA correct the inaccuracies, but the agency protested, saying "the recommendations would create a significant manual and labor-intensive workload and provide no benefit to the administration of our programs."

The SSA says it will work to prevent multiple people from using the same SSN. Teresa Mull

3:18 p.m.

Fox News could soon have some new competition on its hands.

Shari Redstone, vice chair of CBS and Viacom, is "quietly exploring a plan to launch a conservative TV outlet meant to square off with the Fox News Channel," The Hollywood Reporter wrote Tuesday.

Amid this exploration, the Reporter reports Redstone has been speaking with current and former Fox News personalities, including Megyn Kelly, who departed Fox in January 2017 to join NBC News, where her show was later canceled; Kelly will return to Fox with an interview on Tucker Carlson Tonight Wednesday. Redstone has also met with President Trump in the White House in recent weeks.

A spokesperson for Redstone denied the report, and a spokesperson for Viacom did as well. Redstone's spokesperson did, however, confirm she met with Trump.

An existing Viacom channel could be potentially be rebranded into this conservative network, the Reporter says, though further details about the reported plan are unclear. This is all coming as Trump continues to rail against his once beloved Fox News, telling his supporters in August, "we have to start looking for a new News Outlet."

Amid these complaints, the Reporter writes that "Redstone sees an opening as the audience for TV news grows older and more conservative and Trump and some of his fans express disenchantment with ratings giant Fox News." Redstone reportedly sees Fox as having "gone crazy." Brendan Morrow

2:44 p.m.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has some thoughts about the race he ruled out.

Brown, a progressive who easily won re-election while the rest of his state went red in 2018, opted out of a presidential run despite even his barber encouraging him to do it. Yet he has a word of caution for the Democrat he eventually wants to win his state, and it's a rule several of the candidates have already violated, he tells CNN.

"I think it's a terrible mistake if the Democratic nominee would publicly support Medicare-for-all," Brown told CNN ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary debate. He said that promise would scare off voters who fear losing their health care, and instead encouraged the eventual nominee to promise Affordable Care Act expansion instead. Backing the progressive policy could cost the eventual nominee Ohio, Brown said — a state he emphasized went to the winner in every election since former President John F. Kennedy's.

Of course, Brown's advice is already worthless to some of 2020's top contenders. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has already made it clear that she's "with" Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on the Medicare-for-all bill he wrote. Former Vice President Joe Biden, on the other hand, is very blatantly with Brown on this one. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:17 p.m.

Cuba Gooding Jr. has pleaded not guilty to a new misconduct charge as prosecutors now say as many as 12 accusers could testify against him.

The Oscar-winning actor, who is charged with forcible touching and sexual abuse in the third degree, entered his plea Tuesday after being charged over two incidents, USA Today reports. Gooding was initially charged in June after a woman accused him of groping her at a nightclub in New York.

But prosecutor Jenna Long said Tuesday that as many as 12 accusers could testify against the actor during his trial, The Associated Press reports, with misconduct allegations reportedly stretching back to 2001. These are in addition to the two accusers in the cases the actor is being charged over, with the newest one relating to a woman who alleges Gooding pinched her on the behind at a nightclub in October 2018, The New York Times reports.

The New York Daily News reported Monday that three more accusers have shared their misconduct allegations against Gooding with police, and after Gooding's arrest in June, the New York Police Department said a woman who alleges he groped her at a Manhattan club in 2008 had filed a police report.

Gooding has maintained his innocence, with his lawyer claiming Tuesday this is all a "distorted overreaction pandering to the current hypersensitive climate where innocent commonplace gestures are now misperceived and mischaracterized as offensive." The indictment alleges Gooding's behavior "shows that he routinely approaches women while at bars or nightclubs with whom he has limited or no prior interaction, and touches them inappropriately." Brendan Morrow

1:19 p.m.

Another woman has come forward to accuse Matt Lauer of sexual misconduct in Ronan Farrow's new book.

Ahead of the Tuesday release of Catch and Kill, excerpts last week revealed that Lauer was fired in 2017 after an NBC News employee accused him of rape, a detail that had not been previously reported. But Farrow's book also describes an allegation from Melissa Lonner, a former booker on Today who accused Lauer of exposing himself to her in an empty office at a company party in 2010, The Hollywood Reporter writes.

Lonner alleges she attempted to get away but that Lauer became angry, calling her a "tease" and telling her, "You led me on," Deadline reports. Although she did not make a formal complaint at the time, Farrow reports Lonner told Ann Curry, who then told two senior executives that Lauer had a "problem with women." Lonner upon leaving NBC News in 2013 reportedly signed an agreement that prevented her from filing a legal claim, and she was reportedly reminded by an NBC lawyer in 2018 about the "enforceability of her pact."

Lauer's attorney denied the allegation in a statement, saying "Matt never exposed himself to anyone" and calling the claim "ridiculous."

NBC has denied knowing anything about Lauer's alleged misconduct prior to his firing in November 2017, with NBC News President Noah Oppenheim writing in a letter to staff this week that the agreement Lonner disclosed was "standard for departing employees at the time" and was "not drafted to prevent an employee from reporting misconduct." Oppenheim has also accused Farrow of being "clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind." Farrow stands by his reporting, saying it's "indisputable" that "there was a chain of secret settlements at this company that were covered up." Brendan Morrow

1:10 p.m.

If the term "self burn" was in the dictionary, Donald Trump Jr.'s face would be the only definition.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden has been the subject of Trump family taunts ever since his work with a Ukrainian energy company indirectly sparked an impeachment inquiry into the president. Yet Donald Trump Jr. saved the family's most self-unaware attack for Hunter Biden's Tuesday interview with ABC News, somehow thinking it was a good idea to grill Biden for admitting he'd benefited from his family name.

Biden on Tuesday apologized for the way his serving on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma had hurt his father's career, saying it was "poor judgment" for him to take the job. After all, Biden said, "I don't think there's a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn't Biden." Donald Trump Jr., blatantly ignoring his own last name, tweeted that quote from Biden and said it indicated there's a "dumpster fire at Biden HQ!"

Trump Jr. failed to mention that his entire life and career is built around his father's — and by extension his grandfather's — last name and real estate business, and that's he's still working for and profiting off those businesses to this day. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:37 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden apparently took the last debate beyond the stage — and beyond his fellow candidates.

During September's Democratic primary debate, Univision's Jorge Ramos went after Biden for the Obama agenda he's constantly praising, specifically its deportation of 3 million migrants. Biden was visibly unhappy with the question, and apparently confronted Ramos about it after the debate in a "contentious" discussion, Yahoo News reports.

Biden has unapologetically campaigned by promising he'd effectively provide a third term for former President Barack Obama. But that's come back to bite him in Democratic debates as first former Housing Urban and Development Secretary Julián Castro, and then Ramos, questioned Biden on Obama's immigration policy. Ramos asked in September why Latinos should trust Biden, and if the former vice president was "prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake about deportations." Biden gave a stuttering response that didn't answer the question.

But after the debate, Biden reportedly decided to take another crack at the question. He "approached" Ramos to tell him the questions were a "low blow" in what a Univision source called a "contentious" exchange, Yahoo News reports. Biden reportedly also relayed "that he fought for 'Dreamers' as vice president," and that the administration eventually made the right decision on deportations, Yahoo News continues. The Biden campaign didn't dispute that the conversation happened. Read more at Yahoo News. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:50 a.m.

The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees have arrived, but at least one prospective inductee may not be thrilled.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced Tuesday the nominees for its 2020 ceremony, with the list of 16 including Pat Benatar, Dave Matthews Band, Whitney Houston, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., and Soundgarden.

Funnily enough, Birth. Movies. Death.'s Scott Wampler points out, Nine Inch Nails picking up a nomination comes just a year after founder Trent Reznor publicly slammed the organization, saying he doesn't care about being snubbed and that he actually hopes not to get inducted.

"I don't give a f—k!" Reznor told Sterogum in October 2018. "You know what I mean? I don't ... the worst would be if we did [get inducted] and then what? We'd have to f—in' show up and jam? I can't even imagine what that would be."

Reznor in the interview also asked "what could be less rock and roll than the f—in' Hall Of Fame" and said that while it's "nice to be appreciated," it's "nicer when it feels like that's coming from a place that you care about." At the time, Nine Inch Nails hadn't been nominated for two years in a row, though the band was nominated for the 2015 and 2016 ceremonies. Reznor inducted The Cure into the Hall of Fame earlier this year, suggesting in his speech their induction made him take the ceremony more seriously.

Fans can vote on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees online, and the "top five vote-getters in the public poll form one ballot, which is weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots" from industry professionals and historians, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says. But with Reznor last year sounding so decidedly not jazzed about getting inducted, he may well organize a "don't get out the vote" campaign. Brendan Morrow

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